Saturday, September 29, 2012

Author interview: Dennis Maley

Today I welcome Dennis Maley, the author of Runaway!
I review his book a few days ago, you can see my review HERE.
I really enjoyed the book so I'm please to have an interview with him.

You can find out more about Dennis here:
Runaway! Page


ME: What inspired you to write Runaway!?  Why did you choose to write about a young slave boy?

Dennis: My wife and I were driving in eastern Kansas sort of near where I was raised, and we saw a historical marker telling about Sam Wood, a fighting Quaker.  I went crazy reading everything I could about him when I got home and also started reading about another guy, Colonel Jim Lane.  I wound up writing a screenplay about them.  All my readers told me they that they wanted to know more about a minor character - forget Sam and Jim - they wanted to hear about the runaway slave boy.  So I re-wrote the script and made him the protagonist. 
It really is a better story too - different themes emerge - when it's just about him.  And the audience is necessarily younger for a 14 year-old than it is for adults.  So I went into re-write mode again and finally it came out as a novel.

ME: Did you have to do a lot of research for writing the book?

Dennis: Yes, I really did.  I read lots of slave narratives.  And I also read quite a lot written by William Still, the so-called Father of the Underground Railroad, who had the good sense to write down much of what he was doing as an abolitionist.  An African-American by the way...

ME: How long took you to write it?

Dennis: I worked on the materials on-and-off for five years, but by the time I sat down to turn what I had into a novel, it took probably three months.

ME: I know that some of the characters were actually real people, how was to create voices for them? How was to think like them?

Dennis: Lots of the people in the book are people I know in real life.  The Caldwells in Runaway! are my great uncle Glen and his wife Velma.  I'm always telling people funny stories about Glen and Velma, imitating their voices etc.  I know that creating voice is a struggle for a lot of writers but the tactic I use to work through the problem is to imagine someone I actually know actually in the action.

ME: How was the process of creating Blanche?

Dennis: Well, of course, Blanche is ME.  I didn't have those same obstacles he had but his approach to solve his problems is probably pretty darn close to what I imagine that I would have done.  Well, maybe I'm not as brave as him, but I would like to be that brave.

ME: My great grandmother was a slave but I didn’t get the chance to know her and I don’t know much about her. Do you ever get to know anyone who has been a slave or someone who was part of the movement for abolish slavery?

Dennis: No.  I'm not that old.  (Note to myself: I know you are not that old)
USA passed the Civil Right Act when I was still in high school.  It's the law of the land, but old hatreds seem to die out slowly.  No one is left who experienced slavery.  Lots of people left who experienced racial segregation. 

ME: Do you think that nowadays there is still discrimination against people of color?
Yes.  Certainly.  In the USA anyway.  My poker buddies sometimes say awful things on racially charged issues.  But you know, if they were smart, I wouldn't want to play poker with them.  I think it might be different in Brazil. Or Uruguay.  I wish people could put racial and ethnic hatred in the past.
(Note to myself: Actually, there's still discrimination here in Uruguay. Nowadays, in the 21st century we still struggle with difference between people because of their skin color )

ME: There’s anything else you would like to say about Runaway!?

Dennis: I would like to tell people who are interested in writing books that they need to give their works more unusual names.  If you search "Runaway" at Amazon, you'll get something like 15,000 hits.
I would like to make a short movie out of the first third of Runaway!

ME: What are you working on right now? Can you tell us a bit about that?

Dennis: I'm almost finished with another work of historic fiction I'm calling Profane Fire at the Altar of the Lord.  I won't get no 15,000 stinking hits at Amazon with a title like that.  It's about three adventurers and their quests for fame and fortune in 16th century Europe.  What this work lacks in scholarship it will make up for in irony.  I think people will think it's sort of funny.

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